How to Handle Bad Service
I have a number of friends who felt like some aspect of the service they received on their wedding day was sub-par. One girl was disappointed by her caterer – the vendor showed up late, the food wasn’t exactly what she had ordered and the presentation was lackluster. That said, everything tasted great and the guests never knew anything went wrong. Others had issues with DJs, flowers and photographers.
All of these stories represent a degree of poor service, but they didn’t destroy the day. Here the experts weigh in on when it’s really worth it to say something afterward, and when it’s better to just let it slide.
When to Speak Up
Because wedding purchases are weighted with meaning in addition to expense, if something goes even a little bit wrong, it’s easy to blow it out of proportion, says New York-based wedding editor Anne Chertoff. But the truth is that weddings are nearly impossible to orchestrate perfectly, and there’s a good chance something – hopefully minor – will go wrong.
A good measure for determining whether it’s worth speaking up is to consider whether something was actually missing. Did the DJ or band show up mid-event? Did the caterer forget to serve appetizers? Did the photographer spend the whole event hitting on the bridesmaids in the bar? These are more serious problems that merit comment and possibly a request for a refund, Chertoff says.
It’s also worth saying something if the poor service truly affected your happiness and your guests’ experience during the event, says Lara Casey, CEO of the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based luxury wedding consulting firm Lara Casey Media and publisher of Southern Weddings Magazine. For example, if the DJ only played techno and nobody danced the entire night.
If you’re still unsure, before you call have a “Monday morning quarterback” session with a friend or two and find out if they also noticed the issue without you having to point it out, suggest Chertoff. If they did, you can feel comfortable picking up the phone.
When to Let it Slide
If you loved your wedding but want to complain, Chertoff suggests thinking about what you hope to accomplish. It might be worth it to voice your disappointment if your goal is to get money back or perhaps receive a discount on future service. But if you just want to get an annoyance off your chest, you’re probably better off saving your breath
Instead, Chertoff points out, as most wedding vendors work in small, local areas and depend heavily on word of mouth, the best way to “punish” a vendor for mediocre service is to not recommend them.
Requesting a Refund
Read your contracts very carefully, says Casey. Most professional vendors include a refund policy. Make sure you understand beforehand what the terms and conditions are in case of problems.
Then, when you call the vendor to make your complaint, first ask them to explain what went wrong. Maybe the exotic or out-of-season blooms you ordered ended up white roses because the foreign flowers arrived damaged. Ideally the vendor will have called you or your wedding planner beforehand to explain any unavoidable changes, says Chertoff, but at the end of the day, they were doing their best to ensure your wedding looked as perfect as possible. In these instances, however, you still have a right to request a refund or discount if the product was of a lesser quality than the original.
“People make mistakes,” says Casey, “and quality vendors are willing to acknowledge and make up for those mistakes if needed.”